Privately educated ‘over-represented’ in the arts

By Tom Mitchell

One of the UK’s leading theatre directors has bemoaned the lack of students from state schools accepted into the arts. Durham University admissions statistics suggest that the University is symptomatic of the problem.

Writing in The Guardian on 17th January, National Theatre director Rufus Norris noted that: “Since 2010 there has been a 28% drop in the number of children taking creative GCSEs, with a corresponding drop in the number of specialist arts teachers being trained.”

He added: “the practice and study of drama, design, music and art are rapidly disappearing from the curriculum.”

Norris fears that this will “exacerbate inequality of opportunity.”

In Durham, admissions statistics report that state-school students are disproportionately under-represented in the arts and humanities faculty.

Overall statistics indicate that 39.5% of students at Durham were privately educated, but this figure increases to 49.2% when referring to students studying the arts and humanities.

This concentration of privately educated students exists despite the fact that, according to the Independent Schools Council (ISC), only 6.5% of British school pupils are privately educated, which rises to 18% of pupils over the age of 16.

Durham was accused by the New Statesman in 2017 of being among the most “elitist” British universities, accepting the second fewest number of state school applicants. According to the article, there is a “stranglehold of private schools on the best universities.”

The fact that nearly half of Durham students studying for degrees in the arts and humanities were privately educated is unlikely to quell such accusations of elitism.

According to the World Economic Forum, by 2020 creativity will be in the top three most important skills and Norris argues that “the pipeline of talent into the industry is being cut off by the government’s misguided side-lining of creativity in education.”

Photograph: Nigel Clifford via Flickr

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